By Sweeny Murti
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*For all the talk we’ve heard about the pitching depth the Yankees have in the minor leagues, how is it that they needed to pull a 32-year old rookie out of the Phillies minor league system to take Thursday’s start against the Rangers?
It’s not about being able to reach down and get one of the great arms like Adam Warren or David Phelps at AAA or even Manny Banuelos or Dellin Betances at AA. It’s about the time being right for player and team and making sure the player isn’t needlessly rushed to the majors.
LISTEN: Brian Gordon’s comments about his performance
“We like Warren and we like Phelps,” Brian Cashman explained Thursday. “But I would be asking them to do something like I asked (Brandon) Claussen to do (in 2003), which is put them in a position before we felt they were really ready. If I could avoid it, I would.”
“I don’t want to disrupt prospects if I feel they need more time. I’m not afraid of giving prospects an opportunity to pitch here. That is not an issue. I just want to make sure they are equipped to come up here and actually contribute. If we feel they could use more time, it’s in our best interests to give them more time.
“I do not want to interfere with guys who have high-end ceilings that need more time,” Cashman said, speaking more specifically about Banuelos and Betances, the super prospects who dazzled during Spring Training, than anyone else. “Just because I have problems going on here doesn’t mean I have to all of a sudden disrupt their development. I might have to at some point. But I’m hopeful to do enough of this stuff that will benefit us (at the big league level) to let these guys keep running it out there every five days (in the minors).”
Basically, Cashman and the Yankees are choosing short-term fixes for long-term gains. Whether these players are future Yankees or key pieces in trades to acquire future Yankees, their value can only be diminished with a hasty promotion for which they are not ready.
And while Cashman is often criticized as simply a “Cash Man,” the checkbook GM who once referred to himself as “The Yankees Director of Spending,” that description is generally reserved for the off-season free-agent sprees. While there are certainly exceptions, Cashman’s in-season management most often revolves around finding missing pieces and hidden gems the old-fashioned way.
“We’re a fully operational baseball operations system,” Cashman said. “ I’m not afraid of a waiver claim, I’m not afraid of a guy with an opt-out, I’m not afraid to take a guy that all odds are against. I’m certainly not afraid of a significant upgrade at the same time.
“We’ve got a good team. We’re wounded in some aspects of it right now, and it’s up to me and my staff to make it better, plug the holes, and improve upon even when everyone’s healthy. I feel confident we can do that. Our eyes are wide open for every opportunity that may help us. I’ll bring guys in, evaluate, and then kick it to the curb if we don’t think it’s going to work.
And that helps explain a little bit about a crazy 10-game homestand in which the Yankees put Derek Jeter, Joba Chamberlain, and Bartolo Colon on the DL, had three different relief pitchers wear uniform #53 (Amauri Sanit, Kevin Whelan, and Cory Wade), and gave the final game’s starting assignment to a pitcher no one in the organization had actually seen pitch in person in 2011.
*Russell Martin played only 3 of the 10 games on this homestand, bothered by back stiffness. And while Francisco Cervelli was firing balls into centerfield and turning singles and walks into triples, the logical question seemed to be, “Why don’t they just bring up Jesus Montero?”
For starters, Montero’s bat had cooled off a bit since his hot start in April at AAA-Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. Secondly, he was benched for two days just last weekend to clear his mind during a recent slump. But beyond all that, simple bookkeeping and logistical matters kept the Yankees from making a catching move of any kind.
“As I’m mixing and matching with these pitching spots these (40-man) roster spots are real prime,” Cashman explained “Every day I’m having to make a move, either the 60-day DL, designate someone for assignment, or potentially release a guy. If Russell Martin remains a non-DL (situation), it’s probably in my best interests because of roster inflexibility to save as many tricks in my bag for pitching acquisitions.”
Montero is not on the Yanks’ 40-man roster and neither is AA-Trenton catcher Austin Romine, who has been out most of this month due to a concussion suffered in a home plate collision.
Cashman admitted that Montero is a better player than Cervelli, but the number of injuries to hit the Yankees recently has forced his hand in the bookkeeping department. Having Martin not healthy enough to play, but not injured enough to go on the DL, has put the Yanks in a bit of a bind and has Cashman walking the tightrope, even though Montero might be able to help this club right now, all things considered.
“I want (Montero) playing,” Cashman said. “I want our prospects playing (every day). We’re in a situation right now because of the roster, that’s why I haven’t made any move. Is Montero better than Cervelli? Yeah, he is. But Montero is not on the roster right now and if Russell Martin is not going on the DL and is a day-to-day thing, I’m not bringing (Montero) up for a day or two. In my desperation for those 40-man roster spots I’m going to preserve them for the excess pitching.”
*The Yankees look a whole lot better in the week since Boston left town, winning 3 of 4 from Cleveland and sweeping 3 against Texas. The Red Sox roughed up the Yanks in that three-game sweep, to the point that the Yankees nearly to a man said they were embarrassed. They were getting beat up literally and figuratively with all those hit-by-pitches and all.
Perhaps the Yankees got the wake-up call they needed. They are not, at this point, better than the Red Sox. But they are better than most other teams in the American League and they got a chance to prove it against first-place teams like the Indians and Rangers.
“It might have woken us up a little bit,” Mark Teixeira said. “Things happen for a reason. We scored a few runs off Cleveland that first game and got plunked, got plunked the next game. What better way to get back at pitchers or another team, just keep swinging the bat and we’ve been doing that lately.”
The manager isn’t sure there is a direct connection anywhere, but definitely thinks his team is in a different place than it was a week ago.
“I can’t put my finger on it,” Joe Girardi said. “It was tough to swallow, what we went through against Boston. I don’t think our club ever needs any motivation, but sometimes getting a little ticked off helps.”